Today, President Trump joined Senator David Perdue (R-GA) and Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) announcing the introduction of a bill titled “Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy Act,” known also as the “RAISE Act.”  The president praised the work of the senators and in a statement added, “We want a merit-based system. One that protects workers, our workers, our taxpayers, and one that protects our economy. We want it merit-based.”

Highlights from the bill are included below:

  • Eliminates the diversity visa program.
  • Sets the maximum number of refugee admissions to 50,000 per fiscal year.
  • Worldwide level of family sponsored immigrants is 88,000. The number of humanitarian paroles, if the individual has not departed or has not adjusted status, will be counted against that number.
  • A new classification is created for the alien parents of adult U.S. citizens for admission for five years, but will not be able to receive public benefits or work authorization.
  • A person cannot naturalize if the person who executed an affidavit of support failed to reimburse the Federal Government for all mean-tested public benefits received by the person during the 5-year period.
  • Annual and quadrennial reports will be required to monitor the progress and numbers.
  • The creation of an immigration points system to replace the employment-based immigrant visa categories.
  • Effective date will be the first day of the first fiscal year that begins after the date of enactment.  Those exempt are those who have been granted admission prior to enactment, but he or she will need to enter within one year of enactment.

In addition to slashing immigrant visa and refugee numbers, this bill would radically change our immigration system by creating an immigration points-based system to replace the current employment-based categories. Under this point-based system, applications will need to be submitted initially to USCIS for inclusion in an eligible applicant pool, and the application must have at least 30 points to go into this pool. This application will include the following: 1) the number of points an applicant has; 2) attestation the applicant has the points; and 3) application fee.

In calculating the points, the following factors are taken into consideration:

  • Age:  The highest points are awarded to those in the 25-year range.  For example, ages 18-21 receive six points, ages 26-30 receive 10 points, ages 46-50 receive two points, and ages 51 and older are given no points.
  • Education points: The higher the attainment of education, the higher the points.  U.S. degrees will also be ranked higher than their foreign counterparts. These points range from one to 13.
  • English proficiency: The higher the English proficiency as determined by a standardized test, the higher the points.
  • Extraordinary achievement:  25 points will be awarded for Nobel Laureates and 15 points for Olympic medal or international sporting event.
  • Salary: the higher the salary, the more points are awarded.
  • Investment and active management of a new commercial enterprise: Six points awarded for an investment of $1.35 million, and 12 points for $1.8 million. The investment must last at least three years, and the applicant must play an active role.

Once the applicants go into the pool, tie-breaker decisions will apply in order for the following for sorting purposes:

  • Applicants with the higher level of degrees will have preference.
  • U.S. degrees will be ranked higher than foreign degrees.
  • Those with equal education will be ranked according to English language proficiency test rankings.
  • Those nearest to their 25th birthdays will be ranked higher.

Once the application is made and goes into the applicant pool, it can remain there for up to 12 months.  Every six months, the director of USCIS will invite the highest ranked applicants to apply, which will be roughly the 50 percent numerical limit. The applicant must file within 90 days of receiving the invite, and the application must include the following:

  • Valid documentation
  • Attestation from employer
  • Annual salary
  • Job offered does not displace U.S. worker
  • ER has secured health insurance
  • Posted a bond to purchase health insurance, and $345 fee

If the number is reached before the invited applicant applies, then he or she will get a points-based immigrant visa and have a delayed entry until the following fiscal year. If the applicant does not get selected after 12 months, he or she may make the application again.

If the applicant is applying with a spouse, the applicant’s points may decrease based upon his or her spouse. The spouse will need to identify the points that he or she would accrue, and if the points are higher than the applicant’s, the applicant’s number is not adjusted. However, if the spouse’s number is lower than the applicant’s, the applicant will need to recalculate his or her number by taking the sum of the number of points accrued by the applicant multiplied by 70 percent, and the spouse’s points multiplied by 30 percent.

As this would mean a major change for our immigration system, Greenberg Traurig will continue to monitor activity on this bill and also other immigration-related bills introduced to the House or Senate.